Last Free Ride

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Last Free Ride

"Here's a true gem of a cultural's just unbelievable that kids living in such wild-ass anarchy could pull off a feature film. It's sincere, hokey, authentic-- unlike any sixties film you've seen." -- Bill Daniell

Last Free Ride

photos by charlotte von segesser

The free-spirited architecture of the famed Sausalito houseboat colony owes it all to the funky folks who settled on the waterfront in the 50's and 60's when it was still a mudflat and there were no rules or building codes - and to Don Arques.

During the Second World War Sausalito was the site of an enormous effort to build “Liberty Ships” for the US Navy. When the war ended in 1945 Arques bought up war surplus boats, barges, a few ferries, and other sundry floating ornaments that suited his personal taste, –all of which he moored adjacent to his father’s waterfront property. Arques had a laissez faire attitude towards his collection, and with time this confluence of rapidly deteriorating watercraft became an attractive haven for writers, artists and other bohemians anxious to be unshackled from the conventions of ordinary society and the demands of landlords and mortgages.

Over time the residents of this unique world built a sprawling free-form floating community of salvaged lifeboats, old sailboats, and hand-made free-form houseboats, competing to see who could create the most outlandish designs, and living rent free on their floating sculptures until city officials -- backed by real estate interests-- launched a war to evict them. Last Free Ride captures this incredible story in a home-made film with all the naive charm of a community theater presentation, with beautiful photography and amazing reportage that could only be captured by the people who were actually living the life.

The story line in Last Free Ride follows the exploits of Joe Tate and his scrappy rock band, the Red Legs, through their daily lives of playing music, hanging out, boat-building, partying, and ultimately battling the cops for their floating homes. The real value in this treasure of a film is the documented reality that it depicts. This was one of those magic times and places where a group of creative people was able to momentarily carve out a place to live not just for free, but freely. It is a scene that in today's security-obsessed, everything-is-for-sale society seems impossible. But for a few inspired decades it was real. Thankfully some of those rebels put down the wine, joints, guitars,and boat-building tools, picked up cameras and recorders and make this unlikely record of their incredible, inspired community.

Saul Rouda Roy Nolan

A film
by Saul Rouda
and Roy Nolan.
1974, 90 min,
16mm to digital video.